Coronavirus update

Important information:
All on-campus visits and events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Virtual events will be running as normal unless otherwise stated.  For the latest updates visit our coronavirus information page. Please note that some of our on campus events may be replaced by virtual events - please check with the event organiser listed against each event.

Theorising the System of States in the Mirror of Theology

Room 429 (4th Floor) Muirhead Tower
Wednesday 12 December 2018 (15:00-16:30)

Cecilia Davis

The ICCS Seminar Series continues on Wednesday 12th December with guest speaker Dr William Bain (National University of Singapore).

This talk challenges the conventional understanding of international order as a secular association of sovereign states.  I argue that this taken-for-granted view reflects a theological pattern that is rooted in a medieval dispute about the nature of God and the extent of his power.  This dispute gives rise to analogies and metaphors, modelled on the biblical conception of God as power and might, which migrated from theology to politics and law.  The significance of this theological ground is illustrated in the context of a system of states understood as complex whole formed by the interaction of its constitutive.  Specifically, I show how Kenneth Waltz’s structural realism is predicated on a theological mode of understanding and explanation.  I conclude by arguing that modern thinking about international order is neither distinctively modern nor secular; it is, rather, a manifestation of a modern Middle Ages.

William Bain holds joint appointments in the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore (NUS), and Yale-NUS College.  His research focuses on questions of international political theory and the history of international thought.  His current project, Political Theology of International Order, explores how Christian theology, and particularly medieval debates about the nature of God, shapes ideas such as anarchy, balance of power, and global constitutionalism.  He explores some of these issues in the recently published article: ‘International Anarchy and Political Theology: Rethinking the Legacy of Thomas Hobbes’, Journal of International Relations and Development, 22:2 (2019).

The seminar is free to attend and open to all.

Culture and collections

Schools, institutes and departments

Services and facilities